More accurately, I was there to speak on a panel at the MommyTech at CES conference, although I did walk around the show a little bit. I also participated in a “View”-like live-streamed panel about Facebook in Kodak’s booth, along with Real Housewife of New York Jill Zarin, Suburban Outlaw Pam Sherman, entrepreneur Suzanne Kantra and Kodak VP Leslie Dance. It was pretty funny — you can watch the repeat here. I’ll have more about some of the products I saw over on my digital parenting post at BlogHer on Wednesday.
Since this is my travel blog, this post is about the trip. Even though I am not particularly fond of Las Vegas, I actually had some pretty nice experiences on this trip.
First, I flew Southwest Airlines, and I highly recommend spending the extra $10 each way to get Early Bird Check-in. This option automatically puts you in a queue to get your boarding spot 36 hours before the flight. No more having to log-in exactly 24 hours before the flight and hope to get a decent spot in line. On both flights, I had a great A spot, just after the Business Select passengers.
Of course, it is ironic that Southwest brags about your bags flying free and charges for better seat choice, but I don’t care. It’s worth it to me, to be able to benefit from Southwest’s often lower fares and NOT have to remember to check-in at the 24-hour mark, which is sometimes impossible when traveling on business.
Speaking of my bag, on the way home, it went (free) to Boise Idaho instead of Manchester New Hampshire. It did eventually turn up, but there were some hiccups in Southwest’s lost bag procedure.
Making the report at Manchester at 11pm on Saturday night was no problem; the clerk told me the bag was in Boise and would probably make it back to NH sometime late in the day Sunday and be delivered Monday at the latest. Great. No problem. Home I went.
My concerns started Sunday afternoon when Southwest called to give me an update. A very unsatisfactory update that they were looking for my bag and hoped to have better information soon. Hullo? Saturday midnight, it was in Boise, Sunday mid-afternoon, they don’t know where it is? Not confidence inducing. We called customer service back for a better explanation. Turns out they give this very non-committal response until the bag actually turns up at the destination airport. Hhmm. If you aren’t going to give a real status report, methinks you’d be better off saying nothing.
I never heard from Southwest again on the bag, but when Dave went out to get the paper this morning, it was sitting in the driveway. The good news, of course, is that I got the bag back. The not so good news is that Southwest never called with a final update. Now, I understand that it may have arrived in Manchester very late last night, clearly it was delivered pretty early, and when I made the report, I did say that someone would be home Monday morning. But, still, I think a call was in order. What if it had been raining or snowing?
Moving on, and back to the Las Vegas trip, I had used Marriott points to stay at the Courtyard directly across from the Convention Center. Getting around Las Vegas during a big conference can be a pain, especially at peak travel times. The monorail improves things somewhat from the bad old days (when the Sands was a hotel, not just a convention center), but being within walking distance is priceless.
When I got to the hotel Thursday night, they told me that they were oversold, but had arranged for me to stay at the Marriott Residence next door that night, were paying for the room, and had bounced back my points for the one night to my Rewards account. Sure, it was a bit of a pain to have to switch hotels on Friday, but they are right next door to each other. Kudos to the staffs at both hotels for making things relatively painless. My only really negative comment about the hotel was that my breakfast omelet on Saturday had way too much cheese. And I love cheese.
There’s a fairly new Marriott Suites hotel right around the corner from the Courtyard and Residence hotels. I’m wracking my brain trying to remember what used to be there. I thought it might be the old Debbie Reynolds’ Hollywood Hotel, but I checked online, and it is the Greek Isles that is there now. Anyway, the Marriott’s casual restaurant Cafe 325 is a nice place to grab a quick bite to eat. My burger was great, and the bartender let me take my second glass of wine “to go” even though I wasn’t staying at that Marriott. Viva Las Vegas!
I also recommend French bistro Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris casino. The food and service are great, and the prices are reasonable… for Las Vegas. On this trip, I had a yummy steak au poivre with frites ($24.00), which was made even better by the great company – Beth Blecherman (@techmama), Ciaran Blumenfeld (@momfluential) and Amy Oztan (@selfishmom).
Finally, getting to and from the airport. On past trips, I’ve always taken a cab, and bemoaned the long cab lines at the airport. I was on a pretty tight budget this trip, so decided to check out the local transportation offered on the Southwest website. Gray Line Shuttles was the option, with a round-trip price of $12.00.
The price was right, so I figured I could live with a little inconvenience in exchange for the savings. Except it wasn’t inconvenient in the least. Inbound, the wait for the shuttle was shorter than any cab line wait I have ever had in Las Vegas, and leaving Vegas on Saturday, my hotel was the last stop before the airport. In other words, exactly the same elapsed time as a cab. It might be a bit more hectic at other times of the day — I was arriving and leaving at non-peak travel times — but I was generally impressed.
All in all, probably the best trip I’ve ever had to Las Vegas.